Chutney's and its chef, Ravi Chandra, present a view of Indian cuisine that's somewhat above and to the left of the norm — but they're not alone. The Royal Peacock, which opened in Boulder back in 1983, has always offered Indian food that took its inspiration not from the classical recipes handed down across generations, but from the way those recipes were interpreted by the best of the modern Indian chefs. No dish served at the Peacock was ever done by rote, no dish was done a certain way just because that's the way it had always been done. And although the Peacock's menu has stood virtually unchanged since the day owner Shanti Awatramani started serving, its take on Indian cuisine continues to seem modern and smart.
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The last time Laura and I ate there, I could smell the tandoor ovens like a special perfume — a hot, dry, almost chalky smell that has permeated this strip-mall location for more than twenty years. I love the frayed edges of the embroidered menu, the casual service, the unspoken understanding between the house and the guest that no one is trying to prove anything to anyone: All parties involved know that this is the best Indian food to be had in the area. We ate murgh chaat because we will always eat the murgh chaat — cold chicken and cucumber in a yogurt sauce served over tomatoes and spiked with bittersweet mango powder, a taste of gastronomic heaven for just $5.25. After that came the lamb kebabs from the tandoor, which tasted like blood and smoke made solid; the saag paneer that will always stand as my best example of what wonders can be done with vegetarian cooking when the cooking isn't being done by vegetarians; and a curry with forty-odd ingredients made fresh every time. When I asked exactly how many ingredients, I was told that I couldn't be told.
Honestly, I didn't care. I didn't want to know how to make the thing myself, just that someone knows how to make it — and that whenever I want it again, the Peacock will be more than happy to oblige.